Un Ek, Head of Training and Quality Assurance
Meet Un Ek, a remarkable individual who has dedicated 27 years of his life to HALO Cambodia. Starting as a deminer in 1996, he seen Cambodia's progress towards the goal of being mine free, working his way up to his current position, Head of Training and Quality Assurance. In this role, he leads the next generation of deminers while also making sure that the program operations staff uphold the safety and standards that are required.
Un Ek became the Head of Training and Quality Assurance in 2012 and over the last 10 years, he has been in charge of training not only hundreds of new national staff but also entire new generations of staff who have worked and are still working in over 30 countries around the world clearing landmines and explosive remnants of war.
"I have a lot of pride in the work I do. I have been able to pass on my knowledge to younger generations who are eager to learn how to carry out mine clearance operations at home and around the globe.”
Un Ek grew up in Siem Reap Province, and as many Cambodians experienced, his life was far from easy. He lived through the Khmer Rouge Regime which has left scars and limited opportunities for growth. “After the Khmer Rouge ended, I [saw] my mother pass away from severe diseases. I remember I finished my high school just half a month before Cambodia’s first election. However, as an orphan and very poor and didn’t have money to continue studying, there were not even private schools at that time. The war took everything.”
Un Ek made the decision to attend military training school after his mother passed away, as he didn’t have the financial resources to cross the border to Thailand to find a better living. Un Ek served 7 years in United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia armed forces, fighting against the remaining Khmer Rouge. Afterwards, he moved home, as his military salary was not enough to survive on. The pivotal moment in Un Ek's life came when he learned about The HALO Trust, whose deminers were clearing remnants of war from his village. Inspired by childhood friends who had already joined HALO's mission, he decided to contribute to the clearance efforts.
Un Ek’s legacy within HALO and within humanitarian mine action is beyond measure. His work has inspired many and has contributed to millions of contaminated land becoming free from explosive ordnance in Cambodia and around the world. Thanks to Un Ek and his teams' expertise and training, HALO is the only operator in Cambodia conducting clearance with HSTAMIDS detectors, one of the most challenging and cost-effective techniques used to clear land from the remnants of war. Un Ek also supported HALO’s Sri Lanka program, training national staff on HSTAMIDS clearance techniques.
Despite the marks that war can leave in people’s lives, Un Ek’s story reflects the resilience and strength one has to manage when working as a front-line organization.
“Conflict can shrink people’s dreams,” he claims. Today, Un Ek has been able to grow as a professional and become a role model for many within the mine action sector. “Working for HALO has allowed me to fulfil my needs, improve myself on a professional level and create an impact not only in Cambodia but also all around the world. After [joining] HALO, I was able to get married, to buy a land, to build my own house, to cultivate my land, and the most priceless feeling: pay for my four children education”
Thanks to the continuing support received from the United States government, HALO has been able to rebuild communities previously affected by conflict by providing stable employment and proper training to people who have been victims and have seen their goals limited due to war.
"I'd like to thank the donors because it's because of their financial support that we are having such a significant impact. The first effect directly affects those of us who work for HALO, the majority of whom are from areas where the conflict has had a significant impact on our daily lives. We now have the chance to succeed and make a difference in areas that have experienced conflict thanks to HALO. Being able to visit and work in the villages that we grew up seeing being abandoned because of fear has increased my gratitude for the positive effects that can have in the local communities.”
This life-saving work is made possible thanks to funding from: The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA).